Tag Archives: independent travel

Wellington’s LOTR Sites For Free

There are plenty of businesses’s in Wellington happy to take your money and show you the famous Lord of Ring and Peter Jackson sites for  a lot of money. However if your travel funds are running low – here’s a number of low-cost or free sites which you can enjoy, even if broke.

Wellington is a compact town so you can cover a lot of these by foot or bike – if you are reasonably fit. Alternatively use the generally excellent public transportation system.

1. Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshops are closed to the public (too keep all those film secrets safe) – but the WetaCave would love to relieve you of some cash in their shop – but is free entry. The cave is about  a 30 minute bus ride from down town (#2) out past the airport in the suburb of Miramar. While you are in the area you may want to check out the newly restored Roxy Cinema which is within walking distance. One of the original suburbian cinemas that died in the face of the onslaught of TV this one has been restored and reopens in 2011. Part-owner is Richard Taylor of Weta fame. This joins the growing list of mainly suburban cinemas which cater to the movie goer who would prefer a good coffee of nice glass of wine rather than a bag of popcorn and a coke at the local multiplex. The Roxy will feature a bar and restaraunt, and there are cheaper options around the corner in the Miramar shopping area. This area is within 5 minutes drive of the airport – so its not a bad option to kill a few hours if you are running early – or stopping over.

Queens Wharf, Wellington

2. Embassy Theatre – Courtney Place. Although obviously it costs to got a movie here (cheaper on Tuesdays and before 5pm) – wandering around the beautifully restored foyer and up the grand stairs to the Jazz bar is free.

3. Mt Victoria Look Out. On every LOTR tour bus itinerary – but easy to get to yourself. If you are fit you can walk from Oriental Parade (Mt Vic is part of the southern walkway which will take you all the way to the south coast) – or you can get lazy and catch a local city bus up and walk back down again for the views.

4. Many of the big-name actors, and Peter Jackson himself, lived in Seatoun – the pretty seaside suburb is adjacent to Miramar. You can get to Seatoun on a #3 bus or in one direction take the East-West ferry from Seatoun wharf which will take you right back to the heart of the CBD at Queens Wharf. Its also a quick taxi ride or a long walk from Weta Cave over to Seatoun. The beach here is pebbles – but warmer than some, there is a pretty park, a memorial to the Wahine, a ferry who sank off the beach in 1969, and pleasant set of village shops including a cafe or two.

5. You will see lots of advertising for Wellington’s premier Zealandia “land island” protecting native fauna and flora. Its not cheap though – if you want to see more of the New Zealand bush – head over to Wilton’s Otari Bush Reserve – not an actual Lord of the Rings location – but a great way to see real New Zealand bush within 15 minutes from Lambton Quay.

If you have more time than money then these are great ways to see Wellington and get your LOTR fix – you don’t need to do the tour to see most Wellington’s top attractions.

This post is part of Blog4NZ, a three-day travel writing blitz, designed to let the world know that New Zealand is open for business after the earthquake which struck the country one month ago.

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Independent Travel – Being Your Own Travel Agent

Living in New Zealand I have always booked long haul (i.e. further than Australia) – flights via travel agents – until this trip. After being quoted over US$2100 (NZ$3100) for return airfares to Europe via Asia in what should be low season (November) and also had problems getting the return dates I wanted in January I decided to do it myself instead.

I looked a bit further into budget airlines. After several days of research, double checking dates I ended up with an itinerary which looks like this:

Wellington-Melbourne Qantas on air miles
Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur- Langkawi Air Asia
Krabi – Kuala Lumpur Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur – London (Stansted) Air Asia
Munich – London (Gatwick) EasyJet
London – Cork Ryan Air
Cork London Air Lingus
London – Kuala Lumpur Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne Air Asia
Melbourne – Wellington Qantas on air miles

Waitangi Park, Wellington, New Zealand

All of saved me US$700 on the trip. There are  few tricks you need to know though before you attempt this.

Other options out of this part of the world are Tiger Air (ex Australia) and JetStar (ex Australia, ex New Zealand from 2011).

Flight Booking Order
Once you have decided to book flights – have all the information lined up – each traveller’s passport and the dates you want to travel on. Be very cautious of flights that arrive at midnight and make sure you know which day they are on.

Do some dummy runs – to check prices – you will have to go right the way through to (but not including) entering your credit card details to confirm the prices.  Check dates on either side to see if there is a significant difference.

Once you are ready to book – double check everything – use the agent’s trick of reading aloud the information on the screen before you click confirm. Get a friend to listen to you preferably. Book the most expensive or longest sectors first and work out from there.

Credit Card Fraud Alert
All three off shore airlines (Air Asia, EasyJet and Ryan Air) alerted my credit card company to possible fraud, the company called me – fortunately I was answering the phone and all was OK. It would not have been OK if I had been doing this away from my contact numbers though – so advise your credit card company before you try to book flights – particularly those that don’t originate in the country you are booking from (the airlines know where in the world you are booking from).

Cheap Tickets Don’t Guarantee Connections
If you have an expensive ticket with a full-service airline and the connecting flight from say New Zealand is 6 hours late and you miss the connection – no problem the airline will put you up and rebook you at no extra cost. This is not the case with cheap fares – if you miss the second flight you will lose the ticket and have to buy another (more expensive) one.

The exception is that Air Asia now guarantees connections through KL for Australia to London flights. Otherwise I’d suggest you incorporate a stop over.

No Travel Agent To Hold Your Hand
Travel agents can be helpful – good ones will remind you to:

  • ensure that you leave the airport’s minimum transit time between flights (though see above I’d recommend much more) – usually 2 to 4 hours
  • advise what visas you will require
  • tell you to buy travel insurance
  • leave plenty of time to get to the airport – and sometimes to check in over the web to avoid extra charges and delays at the airport (Ryan Air, Air Asia)
  • check which vaccinations are recommended for the countries you are travelling to

So if you have never travelled independently before, especially internationally then agents can be quite useful.

One thing they do is monitor the flights you have booked and tell you when flight times change (as they do from time to time). With cheap flights you will need to be onto any potential changes and keep an eye on your on-line booking (usually via the airline’s website).

And travel may be ticketless these days – but its not paperless. You will need to print out copies of your e-tickets for almost all flights – certainly all international ones. Telling the immigration officer that your proof of onward travel is on your netbook or iPhone isn’t going to cut it.